It was almost 7 years ago when Deputy Gerard Baudains asked a question of the Minister of Home Affairs about the possibility of the States of Jersey Police being armed with Taser Guns.
Two years ago the Taser issue again came into the public domain when the Education and Home Affairs Scrutiny Panel decided to scrutinise the desirability of the Home Affairs Minister’s intention to approve the purchase of Tasers as an addition the States Police’s armoury.
At that time I published two Blogs whereby I raised a number of concerns which received a number of comments. The Blogs can be accessed below.
I was the founder and am a member of the Jersey Human Rights Group and naturedly had an interest in the matter and our Group made written and oral submissions to the Scrutiny Panel. The Panel subsequently published a report in which it identified 8 key findings and 20 recommendations.
The Home Affairs Minister recently lodged a proposition P18/2014 seeking States approval to endorse his intention to authorise the deployment and use of Taser Guns by the States Police in accordance with a number principles. These principles were pretty much in line with what the Jersey Human Rights Group and others had recommended. They are really safeguards to prevent abuse when deploying Tasers.
It was a case of taking a pragmatic approach because the States Police already has a wide range of firearms in its armoury and they did not require States approval to purchase Tasers. I believe there are few people; police included who wish to see police officers kitted out with firearms as seen in some countries around the world. Therefore it is to be hoped that Tasers and other guns will remain firmly locked in the armoury and only deployed as a very last resort.
In support of the case for Tasers I was amused at some of reasons put forward by the Minister, Senator Le Marquand who was the same Minister who defended the disgraceful suspension of the former police chief Graham Power and who released the Wiltshire Report but denied Mr Power the right of a Hearing. Where were Senator Le Marquand’s concerns for Human Rights? And more recently where were his concerns for Human Rights in relation to the arrest, detention and deportation of the lady in the Jersey Dean case.
Senator Le Marquand was of the view that Tasers are urgently required to allow for the States Police to comply with the Human Rights (
Jersey) Law 2000. In his opinion the absence of
Tasers in the police armoury renders the police and therefore the States of
Jersey potentially vulnerable to a claim arising from the Human Rights Law.
National guidance on the management, deployment and command of Armed Officers requires that every action taken, including the issues of firearms and Tasers, be proportionate, lawful, appropriate and necessary to the prevailing circumstances and must be the least intrusive means of resolution. This therefore requires the complete compliance with the Human Rights (
Jersey) Law 2000 and the European
Convention of Human Right Article 2. The absence of Tasers in Jersey,
arguably, does not allow for compliance with this stance.
The above paragraph can be found in the P18/2014 below. I found it an interesting comment and well worth a second read and in particular noting the last sentence were the word “arguably” appears. It is also of interest to note that the Solicitor General was not asked for a view because he is often asked for one when a Backbencher argues that a particular proposal he/she is proposing would render the States to a Convention challenge if the proposal was not approved.
If a Backbencher had brought the proposition which was not supported by the Home Affairs Minister it is highly likely that he would have opposed it on the grounds that “arguably” it was not a Convention breach and would have sought support from the Solicitor General as evidenced in his successful opposition to the removal of Jurats from the Visitors Panel at La Moye Prison.
It may well be that Tasers are less lethal than conventional firearms but they are lethal and the public is also entitled to their Human Rights. They will not be enamoured to learn that the Human Rights Law is being used as justification for Tasers being used against them .It could be “argued” that whilst Tasers are less lethal than some of the weapons in the police armoury, there are also less lethal weapons than Tasers which could be used, such as truncheons, batons, CS gas or even just being talked out of a situation.
Tasers are just part of a mission creep approach away from traditional policing and the Human Rights Law should not be used to justify their introduction.
One further piece of information that came to light was the lowering of the bar when it comes to justification for the deployment of firearms. The former wording stated that a firearms authority could be granted if a person is, “in possession of, or has access to a firearm.” The revised national authorisation wording now sets an authorisation criteria when a person is “in possession of, or has access to a firearm or any other potentially lethal weapon.”
It is another example of mission creep which will now allow for armed police to be deployed in circumstances where a suspect may be in possession of a screw driver or similar tool that can be interpreted "for lethal use."
One of the reasons why it has taken nearly 7 years for the Minister to lodge the proposition was because of export restrictions between the
and Jersey for Tasers. The UK
had an export ban for such weapons to over seas territories until it was lifted
in 2012. It does seem strange that it was legal to export lethal weapons such
as high powered rifles and pistols yet illegal to export less lethal weapons
It was claimed that
was the only place in the UK
where there was a ban on Tasers. That should a record that the Island
should be proud of. One record the Island can be proud
of is that our Police have never had cause to fire at anyone. It is to be hoped
that the record will not be broken in the mistaken belief that Tasers are supposedly less lethal and do not kill anyone. Whilst it was claimed that no has been shot dead by
a Taser, never the less people have died as a result of being shot by one. It matters
not whether it was a direct hit that killed you or as a consequence of being
hit. Once dead you stay dead.
The States Members heavily supported Senator Le Marquand’s proposition. One is now left to wonder how soon Tasers will be deployed in Jersey.
Taser Guns-- The Jury Still Out.17th February 2012